I have been very worried for my family and friends since late February-early March. I have family in Shanghai, which was on stay-at-home orders for two months since February.

Manila (where I’m from) went into a hard lockdown on my birthday, March 17th. People were scared, not allowed to leave their houses. People went panic-buying at the supermarkets. It was impossible to find masks or even alcohol because they were all sold-out. Manila is the most densely-populated city in the world, so you can imagine how crazy it was. There are a lot of poor people as well, who only make enough in daily earnings to feed their family for a day or two. If they can’t work, how would they eat? And even if they stayed home, their houses would be so cramped with so many people that it would be useless. Although luckily, all my family and friends were comfortable and safe at home, I was extremely worried for the poor who had no income and no protection. Some of my friends are doctors, too, and all of them have had to work every single day in the overwhelmed hospitals, seeing patients die, managing the chaos, and making sure they keep themselves safe as well. Just imagine how stressful that is!

A few days before that, my most recent home, Madrid, went into lockdown on March 14th. All of my friends were safe, luckily, but the infections and deaths in Spain were one of the highest in the world at that time. I was worried sick. I saw on the news that they ran out of spaces to put dead people in, so they used an ice-skating rink. It must have been very scary.

After that the US followed, and I have several close friends there as well. I would check the news everyday and it just got worse as the days went by. Even though I was far away, I was worried sick and sad. Healthcare is ridiculously expensive in the US, so poor people who get sick might not even go to a hospital! Some people I knew lost their jobs. They were one in 22 MILLION people who reported having lost their jobs during this pandemic.

Meanwhile in Japan, things were quite “normal” until recently, as the infections went up more and more. People were going to work everyday. Teenagers who are supposed to stay at home still kept going out. People went to hanami. I was very disappointed in the government, who seems to want to protect the economy more than its people, but I could do nothing. Instead, I did what I could and even though I had to go to work everyday, I stayed at home after work and on the weekends. I cooked more, talked with my friends abroad more, and spent more time on myself. It has been nice and refreshing, but I can’t shake the feeling that things will only get worse for Japan in the coming weeks.

I think the biggest challenge we have as people whose most important problem right now is to stay home, is to make sure we are mentally and emotionally okay. News around the world is very depressing, so we have to try to limit our consumption of bad news, and practice letting go of being worried for things we CANNOT change. Instead, we must work harder than ever to make sure the people around us are okay, not just in the physical sense but in their hearts as well. It is hard for everyone, but maybe this is the time for us to reconsider our old ways of thinking, working, and the things we think of as “important” or “necessary”. At this moment, that would be: self, friends, and family.

Have you been overly worried or anxious lately? What can you do to manage this feeling?

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